St. Louis, Missouri – The lead internal affairs investigator in the Jason Stockley case made misleading and inaccurate statements to a grand jury that indicted the then-St. Louis Police officer for murder, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported after reviewing court transcripts.
The grand jury indicted Officer Stockley in August 2016 for the killing of drug dealer Anthony Lamar Smith due to the testimony of city police internal affairs investigator Kirk Deeken and others.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted Officer Stockley on Sept. 15 and the city erupted in mass protests during the day and rioting at night.
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Deeken, who is now a lieutenant within the police department, repeatedly told grand jurors that Stockley executed Smith by firing a fifth shot at close range about 22 seconds after he had fired four other shots.
The prosecutors used Deeken’s theory in the August trial and called Stockley’s fifth bullet a “kill shot.” The prosecutors described how a puff of gun smoke that was seen on the police SUV’s dash camera was proof of that fifth “kill shot.”
But a cellphone video clip taken by a nearby business owner showed Officer Elijah Simpson was there when the fifth shot was allegedly fired. Officer Simpson told the grand jury and at trial that he didn’t see or hear any additional shots. In all, there was no evidence of a “kill shot” besides the “smoke.”
At trial, Judge Wilson concluded that the puff of smoke was exhaled breath in cold air.
Deeken said that only Stockley’s DNA was found on a silver .38 caliber Taurus revolver that Deeken said he found inside Smith’s car.
Deeken told the grand jury that a DNA expert told him that Stockley’s DNA on the gun came from his blood, but Stockley had no open wounds after the shooting. This suggested the blood had to have gotten on the before the shooting, which would be evidence that the gun was planted.
That revolver had been reported stolen in 2008 from a St. Louis County police precinct.
During Deeken’s deposition in May, he said he couldn’t remember why he told the grand jury Stockley’s blood was on the gun.
At trial, the same DNA expert said he didn’t tell Deeken that Stockley’s blood was on the gun. The DNA expert said that the city’s crime lab could only confirm the presence of DNA but not its biological source. Stockley had recovered the gun from Smith’s vehicle and unloaded it; his DNA could have been easily transferred while touching it.
Deeken told the grand jury that Stockley violated department policy by handling the gun. In his deposition, Deeken admitted that at the time of the shooting in 2011, the police department had no policy forbidding officers from handling weapons used against them.
Deeken told the grand jurors that police took a .38 Taurus revolver from Stockley when he was arrested – the same type of gun Stockley was accused of planting in Smith’s car. But Stockley testified he had a .357 Magnum when police arrested him.
Deeken told grand jurors that he believed he heard Smith say, “Don’t shoot,” or “Please don’t shoot,” and “No, no, no!” on car audio and police video recordings, the newspaper reported.
In his deposition, Deeken said the audio recording was so poor, that he and his commanders believed it shouldn’t be used as evidence and an officer was actually saying, “Go, go, go!” after the shooting had occurred. The audio recording was not used at trial because it was indecipherable.
Deeken told the grand jury that Stockley’s first-hand account of the shooting was “almost identical” to that of his partner Officer Brian Bianchi. That implied to the grand jury that the two officers had coordinated their stories.
But in Deeken’s deposition, he said it was not unusual or improper for officers to compare notes before submitting their reports. In fact, at the time, the department had a checklist of facts officers were required to include in their memos. The memos were never raised at the trial.
There is also questions regarding “new evidence” that then Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce claimed she had when she filed charges against Officer Stockley in 2016, five years after the shooting.
Deeken testified in a sworn deposition in May that he knew of no new evidence given to Joyce, who has since retired. Joyce claimed that the Internal Affairs Division presented her with new evidence which allowed her to file the charges after her own office and federal prosecutors had previously declined to charge them.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Joyce has never identified the new evidence. And Joyce’s successor Kim Gardner said she could not say what it was.
Joyce has made only one public comment since the Sept. 15 verdict. She sent a text message to the newspaper that read: “I’m confident that the citizens understand why this case was prosecuted.”
Officer Stockley’s attorney, Neil Bruntrager, told the newspaper that Deeken’s testimony was crucial.
“Without Deeken’s testimony, I believe they never would have got an indictment,” Bruntrager said. The indictment gave the case, “integrity that it didn’t deserve. (Prosecutors) gave people an expectation that there was something here when, in fact, there wasn’t.”
“You have in the prosecutor a position of trust when you have a grand jury,” Bruntrager said. “And when you put a witness like Deeken on, you are saying to them, ‘This is believable,’ and they take your lead and they ultimately got an indictment, and I think that’s a violation of the public trust.”